Monday, July 21, 2008

Things you learn

I have just found out that Walt Whitman's stuffed canary is kept in Bolton Library in Lancashire. Not only that, but the Library also has one of the most important Whitman archives outside the USA. This surprising information comes from a super pamphlet, With Walt Whitman in Bolton: Spirituality, Sex and Socialism in a Northern Mill Town, by Paul Salveson.

The publication chronicles a group of radicals and socialists gathered around J W Wallace, a Whitman enthusiast, who struck up an unlikely, long distance friendship with the poet from 1887 until Whitman's death in 1892. The group continued and had links with the leading figures of early British Socialism, notably Edward Carpenter, together with Keir Hardie and Katharine and Bruce Glasier.

The left they belonged to was far from orthodox, it experimented with a range of ideas, many of which were hardly impressive, but others provide insights that are relevant to a libertarian left and laid the foundation for modern sexual politics. At a time of left realignment the rediscovery of what became marginalised traditions is of more than academic interest.

(Thanks to Mike)

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